*As your Saturday Hoper, Eve, takes a few weeks off to spend with her beautiful brand new baby boy, HiH happily welcomes Andy to share with us! Andy is a disciple of Jesus, husband, father, career advisor, avid reader, photographer, and a philosopher. He is an extrovert who has a passion for Truth.
I did a quick search on my phone while walking to class: “What is philosophy?”
Wikipedia told me that philosophy means “love of wisdom” and that it is “the study of general and fundamental problems concerning matters such as existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language.”
I was lost in my phone and getting trapped in an internet black hole when I almost tripped up the stairs pondering the nature of reality. That’s when the thought struck me that I’m not cut out for philosophy. I figured philosophy was for pretentious intellectuals whose goal was to feel superior to the rest of us and for elite university professors to wreak havoc on every undergraduate’s GPA.
But me? I think, therefore I won’t.
Well, except for this required philosophy class, of course. I knew I’d have to slog through it before moving on with my major, and my life. So with renewed resolve, I headed toward Introduction to Philosophy and readied myself for a long semester.
Professor E.M. Manuel was there greeting us at the door, welcoming us to class; and he already seemed to know all of our names. How did he know our names? I don’t even know everyone’s name in this class. It intrigued me enough to snag a seat nearer the front of his classroom than I’d planned on.
“Who can tell me what philosophy is?” he asked after we’d sat down.
The palpable nervousness of my peers clued me in that if I didn’t say something we might sit in 55 minutes of uncomfortable quiet. I raised my hand and decided to share the answer I’d found while walking to class: “The love of wisdom?” I offered timidly.
“Ahh… but who is wise among you?”
My eyes flitted across the room to see if anyone was brave enough to accept that challenge. No one moved. A thought crossed my mind, so I decided to raise my hand again. “Are you suggesting that none of us is wise because we don’t actually love wisdom?”
Professor Manuel paused for a moment, smiled, and replied, “Well, that’s an insightful question. Does anybody here love wisdom?”
My mind began to race as I reflected on my own heart. Do I love wisdom? How would I even know if I did? I remembered that the book of Proverbs was saturated with insight and wisdom and insight about wisdom. I know that the book of James said we can ask God for wisdom if we lack it. The Bible declares, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” But if I was being honest with myself, I didn’t love wisdom like I should. I probably just loved the thought of wisdom. But most likely, I just loved myself more than anything.
By the time I regained focus, Professor Manuel had moved on and had written the word worldview on the board. I’d heard this word before but wasn’t sure about its connection to philosophy.
“A worldview,” he began, “is the comprehensive way in which you view, not just the world, but reality itself. And subsequently, your worldview informs how you live your life and how you treat other people and how you respond to life’s circumstances when things get hard and when things are going great and how you approach politics and how you approach religion and a whole host of other things that have been ingrained in your subconscious.”
As my pen copied his words into my notebook, my brain started to make the connection -a worldview represents our most fundamental beliefs and assumptions about our universe, reflecting how we answer all the “big questions” of human existence. That reminded me of the definition of philosophy I had found on my phone!
Professor Manuel explained, “Philosophy has been defined as ‘the disciplined attempt to articulate and defend a worldview.’ But most people just live life without ever contemplating the philosophical vantage point from which they see the world in front of their very eyes.”
I suddenly had a flashback to the first time I realized I couldn’t see the world in front of my eyes very well. I was in Ms. Eastman’s World History class during my sophomore year of high school. She was using red and green markers on the overhead projector. I could barely read what she had written until I asked her to switch to her blue marker. Then I could read just fine. I wound up getting glasses that summer, and a whole new world of vision was opened up to me.
It occurred to me that that’s exactly how our worldview works! When I wear my glasses, I don’t see the lenses. But when I remove my glasses from my head, I can see the actual lenses just fine. Then when I put my glasses back on, they become virtually invisible again.
I don’t see the lenses. I see through them.
With the rush of this revelation washing over me, I raised my hand again and shared what I hoped was relevant to the discussion.
“Yes, that’s exactly right!” Professor Manuel said encouragingly. “Just like the lenses we look through that bring objects into focus,” he continued, “even when we aren’t cognizant of our worldview, it is impacting every part of our lives. Without fail. And as a personal example, I’ve recently noticed it’s harder to read street signs from a certain distance away, so from that I infer I must need a new prescription. Fortunately, our sense of sight helps us realize when we aren’t seeing correctly. But what helps you realize your worldview might be out of sync?”
There was that pesky silence again as the class sat in contemplation.
Professor Manuel broke the silence. “Let me suggest to you,” he said, “that for believers in Jesus, your worldview should be shaped by the Scriptures, letting ‘the word of Christ dwell in you richly,’ as Paul writes in Colossians 3:16. God’s Word is your corrective prescription. God’s Word helps you realize when you aren’t seeing things as they are, and it helps you see clearly once again. God’s Word alone makes up the only lenses you need.”
“There are many Christians,” he continued, “who have the wrong idea about philosophy. They say, ‘But didn’t Paul say not to be taken captive by philosophy?’ But they’ve completely missed the very point of that command. Paul proclaimed to the Colossians in chapter two, “See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.’
No, Paul does not warn about philosophy. He warns about philosophy that is based on anything other than Jesus. Since people suppress the truth of God’s Word, the tendency is to be taken captive by any philosophy that is not according to Christ. But those philosophies do not contain an accurate understanding of reality because they are not rooted in the person and work of Jesus. Their worldview lenses obscure and distort reality.
But for those who have trusted in Jesus, Paul says that in Jesus ‘the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority.’ Jesus entered this world fully God, fully man, and you have been filled in Him such that your perceptions of the world coincides with reality, provided you submit to the rule and authority of Jesus to shape your understanding of the way things really are.”
Yes, yes! That made sense! My mind was furiously connecting the dots from what I’d always believed about Jesus to Professor Manuel’s admonition to what my life would look like as I chose to believe in Him! Whew. Weren’t first days usually just for passing out the syllabi?
Class had flown by and it was time to pack up our notes and zip up our backpacks. I could see in everyone’s eyes the spark of unexpected excitement. As we rose to file out and find our next classes Professor Manuel left us with these words:
“That is philosophy that is according to Christ. So don’t fear philosophy. Embrace it. Because the God of all creation embraces you.”